Ali Bulaç in Yarına Bakış writes that Turkey had the chance to provide a model of successful Islamist governance, and asks why it failed. Turkey could have been different, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. If every group had shown the maturity of sharing the work of governing with each other, while at the same time conserving their autonomy, then the process that started in 2002 would have ended with making Turkey a role model for the Middle East. We have to concede that the Muslims were unable to share power, and that they failed to construct a just power. They have forfeited nearly all of the gains that were made since 1960; indeed, the gains relating to freedoms and rights that had been obtained since parliamentary democracy was established in 1950 have been surrendered. This has more than one reason. Two principal reasons stand out: The first is the incompatibility between the two strands of Islam in Turkey that has never been surmounted, between the National Outlook movement and the Nurcu strand or strands; the other reason is that the religious fraternities, as soon as they glimpsed the light of power in the 21st century, reverted to the Ottoman tradition of seeing themselves as the prolongation of the state in society and engaged in a race to become the state’s most privileged group. Meanwhile, Muslim intellectuals quickly embraced the opportunity of becoming the official servants of the state. Anyone who chooses Turkey as model will repeat this mistake.

By Halil Karaveli

June 6, 2016

The celebration of the conquest of Constantinople 1453 is an expression of Turkey’s quest for purity. The “ideology of conquest,” the need to symbolically and repeatedly reclaim what has been Ottoman and Turkish for centuries, ultimately speaks of an existential unease with a historical legacy that is marked by a heterogeneity that is unsettling for an authoritarian state that seeks uniformity. The need to celebrate the conquest of the most important city of the land shows that Turkey is yet to become reconciled with its past. Such reconciliation calls for assuming the entirety of what is a multi-layered historical legacy. Recognizing that Turkey is the result, not so much of conquest, as of a history of continuous mixing and assimilation of aboriginal cultures and state traditions, is also the key to coming to terms with country’s ethnic and cultural diversity today and securing a democratic future for Turkey.

conquest-const

Published in Articles

Güray Öz in Cumhuriyet writes that it is obvious that the AKP is working to bring about a fundamental regime change, and he says that this aligns with bourgeois class interests. One could say that the objective is to put in place an “eastern despotic” regime that is Sunni Islamic in ideological terms. This will inevitably have certain consequences for those who have so far engaged with Western capital and politics in terms of their economic and cultural relations; they will have to be “persuaded.” In fact, we can observe that the capitalist class is content, that its profits are doubling, and that they are prepared to share their gains (with new business interests.) They may not be fully content with the country’s course, but it will not be difficult to persuade them. What we are talking about is not any resistance of some members of the capitalist class, but of some unease. International “concerns” also fall into this category; international players are busy trying to convince the ruling party and its leader to be more “middle of the road.” Unfortunately, those who could make a difference about where Turkey is headed -- those who defend the interests of popular classes -- are not in any position to influence the country’s course. Unless leftists, progressives and democrats get their act together, “Islamic despotism” will not be easy to dissolve.

Özgür Mumcu in Cumhuriyet notes that the presence of the chief of the general staff, General Hulusi Akar, as a witness as the wedding of Sümeyye Erdoğan, the youngest of President Erdoğan’s daughters, provoked angry reactions among those who – like betrayed lovers -- are used to pinning their hopes on the military. This is not a meaningful reaction, but apparently we needed a wedding picture to realize what the power structure looks like. It was the military-industrial complex that posed for the wedding picture. This is the situation of the military that some hope so much from. And the same goes for the “Istanbul capital” that again, some expect will provide salvation. These capital interests are standing in line to get defense contracts (from the state). Erdoğan, the military, big capital and MHP form a united front. The wedding picture is instructive: it reminds that democracy will not come with the help of big capital and the military. Erdoğan, capital, the army and MHP are hand in hand. Had the laws about contract labor passed so easily if it hadn’t been for this alliance? The power relations are as easy to read as an open book: A united rightist bloc, behind it big capital, and the military as its assurance. These are all well-known themes for the left, for a left that once again needs to bring back class to the center of the political agenda.

Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce comments a news article in the Wall Street Journal according to which the “Palace” (President Erdoğan) is concerned about a prospect of a military coup. The United States will support a coup in Turkey if vital American interests are threatened, and the Turkish Armed Forces will never stage a coup unless it has American support for it. For the moment, Turkey does not have a stance that threatens American interests. Yes, the American administration cannot stand Erdoğan. It dislikes his authoritarian style. However, that’s not a reason enough for a coup. Besides, the Turkish regime does everything that the U.S. administration tells it to do in the region and in Turkey. Yes, it takes some effort to bend Turkey, but this is not anything new. Turkey was always a troublesome ally. The Erdoğan regime is not doing anything, nor has it taken any such decisions, that would jeopardize the interests of American companies. Furthermore, American interests are served by the fact that Turkey has become totally dependent on the West since the downing (last year) of the Russian plane (in Syria.) The same reasons apply to the Turkish military. The military is convinced that Turkey can only survive with the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. And the AKP gets the blame for all human right violations, ensuring the image of the Armed Forces is unharmed.

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Joint Center Publications

Op-ed S. Frederick Starr, Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, How the U.S. Promotes Extremism in the Name of Religious FreedomForeign Affairs, August 24, 2017

Op-ed Lawrence Stutzriem and Svante Cornell "Turkey and Qatar's Support for Extremist Groups", Realcleardefense, May 23, 2017

Article Halil Karaveli "Turkey's Authoritarian Legacy", Cairo Review of Global Affairs,  May 1, 2017

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Assasination in Ankara"Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2017

Essay Halil M. Karaveli "Erdogan's Journey"Foreign Affairs, October 19, 2016

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Turkey's Fractured State", The New York Times, August 1, 2016

Monograph Eric Edelman, Svante Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Halil Karaveli, "Turkey Transformed: The Origins and Evolution of Authoritarianism and Islamization under the AKP", Bipartisan Policy Center, October 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell and M.K. Kaya, "The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, September 2015.

 

The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.

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